Monday, October 04, 2004

Fifth Horseman

There are seven dwarves.
Fifty states.
Ten Commandments.
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

War. Famine. Pestilence. Death.

And now I think, a fifth: Bankruptcy.

Words shouldn't fail me. I should not be surprised. But they do, and I am. And I'd like to meet whomever is responsible for this mess and whack them upside the head.

Yes, world. It's the Hello Kitty Debit Card.
Target age group? 10-14 Years Old.
Marketing slogan? "Freedom! You can use the Hello Kitty! Mastercard to shop 'til you drop!"

No. No. No. No. No. No.

Debit? Children don't need debit. Freedom? Ha! Children don't need freedom. Shop 'til you drop? If a child in my house shops until she drops, she will amass an armful of books (OK, that's genetic), several Barbies that will go largely untouched, 10-15 new journals, a handful of purses, various items with fairies, unicorns or ballerinas, and enough pens, pencils and sticky notes to outfit a Staples office supply store.

Drooling credit officials claim the cards are an educational tool. They say it "teaches good money management early on."

Please. TinyTuna is still working on an ice cream sprinkle management, an aggressive television abatement program, and getting dirty socks down the chute. We're not ready for freedom.

Finger-pointing credit officials say Hello Kitty isn't the only kid-targeted debit card. Hilary Duff (Mom! Mom! It's Hilary Duff!! It's Hilary Duff!!) came out with a Visa-sponsored debit card last year. Users were encouraged to "shop like a star" and Ms. Duff said it was "the perfect way to shop for school and beyond. . . . Now I can easily buy stuff online without having to borrow my parents' credit card."

Incredibly lazy parents say, "It's no different than an allowance; just a safer way to manage an allowance because if you're a parent, you can find every place your daughter spent her money: how much, when and where...You get a higher level of control than just giving your daughter $100 and say, 'Go to the mall.' "

Oy gah. Where do I start?

TinyTuna (thus far) doesn't get an allowance. But she has asked for one, and we have begun negotiations. I've already decided, financially speaking, what she will get and how it will be apportioned:

$20 Monthly allowance
$6 she will put in the bank for college
$6 she will put aside for an annual donation to the charity of her choice
$8 to be used by her for whatever she wants. To be spent immediately or saved. Her choice.

She and I will negotiate what chores must be completed to receive her allowance. Am I a mean mom? Maybe so. Does it teach her to save and give to others as well as paying herself? Absolutely. My hope is that this exercise will teach her restraint so she will have true financial freedom.

Dear consumer-driven children of America:
Do NOT come to live at my house. You will not get a debit card. You will have no freedom. You will not be allowed to "shop 'til you drop." Neither Hilary nor Hello Kitty will live in your wallet. You will not get $100 to "go to the mall." Ever.

Dear incredibly lazy parents of America:
Are you INSANE? How can you, on the one hand, propose ever giving a child $100 to "go to the mall" and then, on the other hand, be so concerned about knowing every last detail of how your child spends the money. Get off your butts, put down the latte, and go shop WITH YOUR CHILD. Teach them bargains. Stick to a budget. Show them financial restraint.

Dear Greedy Corporate Product-Placing Financial Scum-Sucking Leeches:
Shame on you. While you preach economic education, you practice supply and demand -- giving consumers what they desire -- whilst conveniently skimming off a $14.95 activation fee, a $14.95 yearly renewal fee, a $2.95 monthly fee, a $1.50 ATM fee, and a $1.00 per minute fee to speak with a customer service agent. Better you than some other greedy corporate product-placing financial scum-sucking leech , right? Why shouldn't it go into your pockets?

Because it's unnecessary. And it's wrong. Unfortunately thus far, it's not illegal, but it should be. Children don't need freedom to shop 'til they drop. Children need limits and guidance. Parents need wake up, become involved and take some responsibility.

And as for Hello Kitty? This is one feline who needs to be fixed.


Mensch71 said...

I think your post should be required reading for every single parent in the country! My entire industry is based on those people who have problems with credit - we don't need more business, especially ones who aren't old enough to drive. Amen!

TVJ said...

WRAUGH! You tell 'em TUNA!


Anonymous said...

Jesus Wept! Unbelievable - children can now go bankrupt before they're old enough to vote.

When I started working, my deal with my mother was that my bank account had to be co-signed by her. 1/3 of my paycheque went to her for "room & board" (which I discovered she secretly put into a bank account for me and was given to me when I left home, for some "starting out" money. Bless her), 1/3 went into the bank and 1/3 was for spending. This allowed me to go to Europe with some family friends when an unexpected opportunity arose and I had money to furnish an apartment and feed myself when I moved out. Good on you, GT! trav

Anonymous said...

Un-friggin-believable. This just ties in with the story I saw on "60 Minutes" the other night about the generation this card targets. Scary. That's all I'm saying.. scary!


Birthmom said...

Amen. You know, my kids are 11 and 14, and they don't get an allowance. If they need something, they get it. If they want something, we discuss it and shop around. However, Kourtney has some friends of hers that seem to be able to shop like there is no tomorrow. A debit card for kids? Insane. Almost as insane as credit card companies that prey on college students that have no income, and no credit- look! free money! Then they get out of school, realizing they've got a new $5000 debt to go along with that student loan (i.e. my brother did this).....good write up!

Hammie said...

As a 23 year old that is working her ass off to pay back the $3000 worth of credit card debt that I accrued when I was EIGHTEEN, I totally agree with you. I think the minimum age for credit cards should be 25 when kids have a little maturity and financial responsibility under their belts. I rue the day I accepted the "first time" credit card with TWENTY EIGHT percent interest on it.

BTW, I think the plan you have for TinyTuna is AWESOME. Saving money for college and giving money to charity? Teaching such discipline and compassion is UNHEARD of these days. One more thing in my mental " How to be a Good Parent" book that I learned from you, GT!!

Gary said...

Well, I always said that Hello Kitty was the embodiment of evil, and now here's the proof. Good work, Tuna. It's clearly an effort to get people addicted to consumerism at a very early age. When will people realize that more stuff does not mean more happiness?